Writing a literary figure into the story of a fantasy comic is nothing new: some of the finest moments of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman saw Shakespeare not only putting on his plays, but meeting the fantastical characters that appear in them.
Here, Gordon Rennie and Emma Beeby have done a similar piece of work on Scottish counterpart Robbie Burns. I’m not particularly familiar with Burns’ poems and songs, beyond partaking in a bit of Auld Lang Syne at New Year. But I’ll take this book’s word for the fact that he also had a thing for writing poems about witches, goblins and 12-feet-tall demons from Hell. If you want proof, there’s a spectacularly badly edited essay at the back of the book (honestly, did anyone actually read it?) and a very small collection of poems.
In this book we see the poet dragged off the street and trained by a pair of witch hunters to help them kill a demon. There’s a smattering of love interest, a little church robbing (donated coins are the best holy ammunition for slaying Hell’s minions, apparently) and plenty of demon decapitating.
It’s all a load of old nonsense, really. A humdrum plot has been gilded with a literary premise that has a certain spark of wit to it, but is a hollow experience on the whole.
Tiernen Trevallion’s illustration, on the other hand, carries the book. His depiction of demons and the walking dead leave nothing to the imagination, and his characters are full of life and dynamism.
With a better story that didn’t presume its existence to be justified by sheer virtue of being a novel idea, Trevallion could, perhaps, have helped make this into something more.